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Cybersecurity pioneers win mathematics Abel Prize

  • Published at 03:10 pm March 18th, 2021
Laszlo Lovasz, left, and Avi Wigderson
Laszlo Lovasz, left, and Avi Wigderson were jointly awarded the 2021 Abel Prize Collected

‘Their work has been important in providing the theoretical basis for internet security’

The Abel Prize, which honours achievements in mathematics, was awarded on Wednesday to Hungarian Laszlo Lovasz and Israeli Avi Wigderson for their contributions to computer security, the Norwegian Academy of Science said.

The pair were honoured "for their foundational contributions to theoretical computer science and discrete mathematics, and their leading role in shaping them into central fields of modern mathematics," the jury said.

Lovasz, 73, who is affiliated with the Alfred-Renyi Institute of Mathematics and Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, is credited with establishing a connection between discrete mathematics, such as the theory of networks, and computer science.

Together with Dutch brothers Arjen and Hendrik Lenstra, Lovasz developed the LLL algorithm, which has applications in areas such as number theory, cryptography and mobile computing.

The algorithm serves as the basis for the only encryption systems "that can withstand an attack by a quantum computer," the academy noted.

Avi Wigderson, 64, a researcher at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, has widened and deepened the understanding of "complexity theory" meanwhile.

His research has led to advances in internet cryptography and serves as the basis for the technology powering crypto-currencies such as bitcoin.  

"Thanks to the leadership of these two, discrete mathematics and the relatively young field of theoretical computer science are now established as central areas of modern mathematics," Hans Munthe-Kaas, chair of the Abel Committee, said in a statement.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic it is not yet known when the prize -- named after Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel -- of $882,000 will be formally awarded.

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